Is tinned fish currency? How do you make ‘jail velcro’? And will bedwetting get you a single cell? Meet Carl Cattermole, whose banged-up bible is making him a hero to prisoners
When Carl Cattermole was released from prison, after serving a year of a two-and-a-half-year sentence for criminal damage, he was “confused and angry, but ready to turn everything I’d seen into a positive”. What he’d seen, inside London’s HMP Wormwood Scrubs and HMP Pentonville, was eye-opening. Prison was not the bloodbath that Hollywood had promised, nor the “Butlins for murderers and paedophiles” that the tabloid press had raged about. But it wasn’t as rehabilitative as earnest politicians had promised either. Instead, Cattermole found a system that was simultaneously underfunded and hugely expensive, that prioritised punishment over reform, and often doled this out through instances of banal cruelty – bad food, bad bureaucracy and incentive systems that pitted prisoners against each other.
Upon his release in 2011, Cattermole wrote the guide he had needed inside. Advice such as: how to make salad dressing from tinned tuna and brown sauce. That the best paid job in prison is “biohazard” (cleaning up your fellow prisoners’ puke and blood). A reminder to cancel your standing orders for your phone or TV, so you don’t come out to debt. That claiming to be a bedwetter won’t get you a single cell as it once did – but hearing voices might. How to make “jail velcro”, a device made from a coat-hanger and a drawstring bag used to move objects between cells. That no one trades in cigarettes any more; it’s all toiletries and tinned fish now. The right forms to fill in to make a complaint against an officer. Or that, if you land the right Albanian cellmates, they might make you yoghurt from prison-issue milk. (“Google says this isn’t even possible,” says Cattermole, “but I saw it live and kicking.”)
I'm trying to stop reoffending because once someone's humanity is gone, it's a void to be filled with drugs and violence
You can go because you are homeless, because you are a squatter, and for not paying your TV licence
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